Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself. In light of this, today I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.
Today’s book is The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership by Bill Walsh and Steve Jamison.
Bill Walsh was most famous for his tenure as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. In his time, he transformed the 49ers from a below average franchise into a NFL dynasty.
After his coaching days, he gave Steve Jamison (Author – most notably wrote a ton of books on John Wooden) an exclusive interview to learn about his principles and techniques. This book walks us through Bills entire coaching career with real life stories, practical tips, and step-by-step leadership advice directly from Bill Walsh.
Leadership Lessons I learned:
One Team = One Mind
In the very first chapter of Bill’s book, he discusses an idea that teams and organizations have a conscience. For the 49ers, Bill believed from the receptionist to players like Jerry Rice and Joe Montana everyone should think and act in the same way. No matter your role or title within in the 49ers organization you were held to the same standards. Here is a direct passage from the book:
“Beyond the mechanical elements of doing jobs correctly, I assisted coaches, players, staff, and others in assimilating the values within my standard of performance, including what I believed regarding personal accountability among the organization and its personnel. This is consistent with my conviction that an organization is not just a tool like a shovel, but an organic entity that has a code of conduct, a set of applied principles that go beyond a company mission statement that’s tacked on the wall and forgotten. In fact, we had no mission statement on the wall. My mission statement was implanted in the minds of our people through teaching.
Great teams in business, in sports, or elsewhere have a conscience. At its best, an organization – your team – speaks the values and a way of doing things that emanate from a source, that source is your – the leader. ” – Bill Walsh
Create Your Standard of Performance
When Bill took over the 49ers organization it was one of the worst franchises in sports. Within a few years he took them from the bottom of the NFL into a NFL dynasty (winning 3 super bowls and became of the most legendary coaches of all time). The great thing about his story is that he did the most simple thing from day one on the job. His very first day he set the tone and expectations of how is players were going to act and think. He let everyone know exactly what he expected, and no matter your role or title you were responsible to uphold the standards set forth by Bil. The standards became more than just guidelines to follow. They embodied what it meant to be a 49er.
Here is how he went about building out his standard of performance.
- Identify and list out the specific actions and attitudes that will make your team successful
- Be clear in communicating your expectations of effort and execution towards your the actions and attitudes you identified above
- Let all know that you expect them to possess the highest level of expertise in their area of responsibility
- Beyond standards and methodology, teach your beliefs, values, and philosphy.
- Teach connection and extensions. The team must work as one cohesive unit and hold eachother to the standard of performance set out by the organization or team.
- Make the expectations and metrics of competence that you demand in action and attidue from personnel the new reality of your organization.
Everyone Is Connected
Bill Walsh always wanted to teach his players and coaches that they were extensions of each other. When Jerry Rice (hall of fame wide receiver and star on the team) caught a touchdown pass Bill always reminded him and the team that he was not solely responsible, but that everyone from the offensive lineman, practice squad, etc were responsible in helping. This type of thought process made his players focus on the most important thing which was following the standard of performance. Bill made it clear that talent alone was not going to win the super bowl, and a sense of connection towards one common goal (following the standard of performance) was going to be the key to ultimately winning the super bowl.
Stay Focused on Improving, Not Winning
As the coach of the 49ers, Bill was determined to implement his standard of performance whether his team ever won or lost a game.
A staff member of his in his second season as head coach confronted him about how crazy he thought Bill was for not having a definitive plan on how they were going to win games, and super bowls. That staff member was fired immediately after his conversation with Bill. Bill had one goal and that was to ensure that everyone in the organization was focused on themselves and abiding by the standard of performance he put in place for the 49ers organization.
As Bill put it in his book, “I directed our focus less to the prize of victory than to the process of improving – obsessings, perhaps, about the quality of our execution and the content of our thinking: that is, our actions and attitude. I knew if I did that, winning would take care of itself.”
Be Careful Not to Push to Hard
As tough as Bill was as a coach he was very conscious of not pushing players to hard. His belief was that if the organization followed the standard of performance and solely focused on improving their actions and attitudes that in high pressure situations “trying harder” would not be the solution. The only solution would be to trust each other, and if everyone followed the standards that they practiced, the score would take care of itself.
Teaching Defines Your Leadership
Passion, expertise, communication, and persistence were the four things a coach needs to be able to teach their players according to Bill Walsh. In his book, he lays it out each trait in detail here is a summary:
- In order to be passionate about teaching someone you must love what you are teaching.
- You must obsessed over this specific topic and become as knowledgeable as anyone about the specific subject matter.
- The most powerful way to communicate is through showing enthusiasm and excitement about what you are trying to teach people. The goal is get the individuals or team as excited as you are. If you can’t get excited about what you are teaching than your team will follow suit. You set the tone.
- Key to teaching someone something is persistence. Bill would run the same drills over and over again, and say the same things over and over. The point of this is to ensure that things became automatic even in the most stressful moments.
How Has is book impacted me:
It was a fresh reminder of the importance of how by creating a set of performance expectations for yourself (a personal standard of performance) can help me stay focused on what I can control: my actions and attitudes. If you find a way to master this concept, than you know you did everything in your power to achieve your goals.
Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One. You have the opportunity to wake up today and create your own standard of performance. May the choice be with you.